Genoa to honor legendary coach Jim Firestone

By: 
Yaneek Smith

Press Contributing Writer
sports@presspublications.com

The Genoa football program had some great coaches – Mike Vicars, John Boles, Tim Spiess and Paul Patterson come to mind, but nobody quite compares to Jim Firestone.
The legendary football coach is being honored Friday at 6:40 p.m. before Genoa faces Lake. The stadium is going to be named “Jim Firestone Field” after the coach in recognition of his long-standing presence in the community. “I hope that the future players know that playing on the field with my name is about giving everything they’ve got,” he said.
GenoaBank, whose CEO/President, Marty Sutter has been a steadfast supporter of Genoa Area Local Schools, is purchasing the naming rights to the stadium.
“GenoaBank is a community bank,” said Sutter, a 1983 graduate of Genoa High School. “Investing in the community is our top priority. Our employees are from the community, and our customers live in the community.
“At GenoaBank, we love Northwest Ohio, we love our community and we are extremely proud to play our part. We have valued our relationship with Genoa Schools. We felt (that giving back) was a way to meet the needs of the kids in the district. We have had record years of growth and financial prosperity, and this was a way to give back,” he said. “We have had a long history in the Genoa community. I grew up in Genoa, went to Genoa Schools, and graduated in 1983,” he said. “My family, my wife’s family all attended Genoa Schools. We have had past long-time directors and our bank board who have known the accomplishments of Coach Firestone. It’s a team effort.”
Firestone, who is Genoa’s all-time winningest coach, compiled a record of 109-60-6 (.631) in 18 seasons from `59-`76. He became the head coach at the age of 24 and won three Suburban Lakes League championships. Firestone’s `75 team was the school’s first to go 10-0 and was incredibly dominant, allowing just 32 points for the entire season and was part of a 20-game unbeaten streak.
The undefeated team featured quarterback Gary Mathews and running back Alfredo Lozaya.
“They didn’t get a chance to prove themselves in the playoffs,” said Firestone. “There were only three divisions in those days. Now, with so many divisions, it seems like everybody makes it.”
One of Firestone’s best players was Fred Koester, who graduated in `60 and had a successful career at Bowling Green State University for legendary coach Doyt Perry.
“He was an assistant and then became the head coach at Eastwood,” said Firestone. “He was coaching against me and we had some great battles. He passed away a few years ago.”
The Comets competed in the Northern Lakes League, which featured bigger schools like Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne, until `72, when Firestone helped form the SLL. Had Genoa been in a conference with more teams similar in size, Firestone would’ve accumulated more victories, perhaps a great deal more.
“I started as an assistant in ‘56 and in ‘59 I was named the head coach and athletic director,” said Firestone. “We were in a very tough league; we had winning seasons, but we were one of the smallest schools in the NLL. We had to compete against much bigger schools. After coaching there for 13 years, I knew a fit for all sports for Genoa would be (in a smaller conference). I pushed for the SLL to be formed in ‘72, and I’m proud that most of the schools in that area are still together in the Northern Buckeye Conference.”
Aside from being a coach and educator, Firestone was the principal of Genoa High School for 10 of his 30 years at the school and worked 46 years in education. He devoted himself to promoting and supporting not only the school district, but the community of Genoa.
“All the people I’ve met, the coaches I’ve worked with, the school system, the teachers — they are people who I still associate with to this day. As the principal, I had a wonderful staff and teachers, and so many students who went on and were successful in their careers. Their families contributed to their communities,” said Firestone. “Genoa, Curtice, Williston, Clay Center and Martin — those places are the best. I’ve lived in this house for 60 years, and they still come back and visit.”
Firestone, 87, is originally from Connellsville, Pennsylvania, which is located 36 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. He played football at Ashland College (now Ashland University) where he was part of the program’s first undefeated team and two teams that won league championships.
Firestone has accumulated a list of accomplishments in the community, too. He’s in the Genoa High School Athletic Hall of Fame, as an individual and with the ‘75 team. A member of the Genoa Kiwanis for 62 years, he received the organization’s highest honor when he was given the George F. Hixon Fellowship Award. He was also inducted into the Ashland Hall of Fame.
One of the things that has endeared Firestone to the community and the football program is the fact that he’s developed friendships with the coaches who have come after him, he said.
“Many coaches have helped keep a great tradition going,” he said. “Dave Hitchen was my long-time assistant and he won a championship. I got to know Bob Baird, too. John Boles had terrific teams. What Mike Vicars and Tim Spiess did during their time, well, you can’t do any better than that. Paul Patterson invited me often to speak to the team. He had a team ranked No. 1 in Ohio. I am watching this year’s team and they improve every week. Bill Fisher is doing a great job,” he said.

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